Bid to save hospital unit

MORE than 50,000 people have signed an online petition trying to save the children’s heart surgery unit at Leicester’s Glenfield Hospital.

The petition is in response to a review of children’s heart services published in July which recommended the unit’s closure and a transfer of surgery to Birmingham Children’s Hospital.

Campaigners against the recommendation hope to get 100,000 names for the petition by mid-September to force a parliamentary debate on the future of children’s heart surgery at Glenfield, with 54,581 people having signed it so far.

Hopes of saving the unit have been boosted with decisions by Health Scrutiny Committees in Lincolnshire and Leicestershire to refer the unit’s future to Health Secretary Andrew Lansley.

The decision by the county’s committee is based on the view that closing Glenfield’s child heart unit would not be in the interests of health services in Lincolnshire.

Committee members believe it would have a negative impact on clinical safety and accessibility, especially as the pioneering ECMO heart treatment would transfer to Birmingham.

Among the campaigners are Francesca (31) and Christer Larsson (32), of Stonegate, Spalding, whose daughter Sofia (2) spent three months at Glenfield where she underwent two open-heart surgeries and is due to have a third shortly.

Mrs Larsson said: “We welcome the Health Scrutiny Committees’ decision to refer the matter to Andrew Lansley for review by the Independent Reconfiguration Panel on children’s congenital heart surgery in England.

“We are also pleased with how the petition has been going, but we still need many more signatures to ensure a full parliammentary debate on the matter.

“There is still a fight to be had here and it might be a child in your family who needs the services of Glenfield next.

“After all, it is estimated that one in every 133 children are born with a congenital heart defect.”

To sign the Glenfield petition, visit http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk

Meanwhile, NHS officials have announced initial details of the plan to implement changes to child heart care which include a national summit in October for all 11 hospitals involved in the review.